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ASPCA Euthanizes Homeless Man's Dog Without Telling Him

 James Tarangelo's dog Spot was taken into custody by police.
James Tarangelo
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WEST VILLAGE — The ASPCA euthanized a homeless man's dog without telling him, DNAinfo New York has learned.

The dog's owner, James "Jimmy" Tarangelo, had been frantically trying to reunite with his dog, Spot, since police took the border collie mix on Aug. 7, based on concerns about the pet's health.

Every day since then, Tarangelo had called the ASPCA animal hospital to find out when he could get Spot back, but his calls were never returned, he said.

Tarangelo only learned that his pet of 15 years had been euthanized when DNAinfo broke the news to him Wednesday afternoon.

"They had no right to do that!" Tarangelo shouted, distraught. "They just can't take somebody's dog to do that!"

The NYPD took Spot from Tarangelo after receiving repeated calls from locals concerned about what appeared to be a large wound on Spot's back, police said. Police charged Tarangelo with cruelty to animals and gave him a desk appearance ticket.

But the wound was actually a mast cell tumor that had already been treated by several veterinarians in the city, said Tarangelo, who shared medical paperwork with DNAinfo showing Spot's treatments.

Friends of Tarangelo's had just raised $1,000 for Spot to get a special treatment for the tumor, but the NYPD and ASPCA took the dog away before it could be treated, Tarangelo said.

"That dog was denied the treatment he was supposed to get," Tarangelo cried.  "The ASPCA prevented his treatment."

A spokeswoman for the animal center told DNAinfo about the dog's death in an email and declined to provide additional information.

"This approximately 15-year-old dog was suffering from a number of serious medical conditions," the spokeswoman said in the email.

"Unfortunately, due to the severity of these conditions, he had to be humanely euthanized to end his suffering."

After this story was published, the spokeswoman sent an additional statement.

"We understand the outpouring of concern for this dog," she wrote, and said that Spot "was seized by NYPD based on probable cause of animal cruelty and because of his severely compromised condition and need for medical attention.

"Since this is a pending criminal case, we are not at liberty to disclose details of the dog’s ailments or of the care we provided him to the defendant or anyone except the NYPD and the District’s Attorney’s Office," she added.

Tarangelo, 62, is a longtime Greenwich Village resident. For the past decade or so, he has lived out of a van on Greenwich Street just south of Clarkson Street, but he grew up in an apartment on Leroy Street. He lost the apartment after a court battle with the building's owner in 2001.

He was the subject of a New York magazine article in 2005 and a New York Post article in 2009. Recently his friend Lynn Pacifico, another local dog owner, wrote about him in The Villager.

Police said they received at least 13 complaints from residents concerned about Spot in the month of July alone.

Officers visited Tarangelo to check on Spot on Aug. 7 and, after seeing the uncovered, bloody wound on the dog's back, they took the animal to the Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists. A vet there diagnosed the dog with multiple ailments, including bronchitis exacerbated by spending too much time in the sun, police said.

The NYPD was also in contact with the ASPCA, which took Spot into custody on Aug. 8.

The animal group refused to say when Spot was euthanized or what happened to the dog's body.

In addition to calling the ASPCA every day hoping to get his dog back, Tarangelo also tried to find out more from police, but officers told him the matter was out of their hands.

Police tried to reassure him by saying he would learn more when he appeared in court on his desk appearance ticket on Sept. 15, Tarangelo said.

Spot had been seen by veterinarians on July 5 and July 25, and the discharge papers from both visits don't mention anything about the dog being terminally ill or needing to be put down. Tarangelo said he cleaned Spot's tumor regularly with water from a fire hydrant and changed the bandages.

Skeptical of pharmaceutical drugs, Tarangelo also researched homeopathic treatments for Spot. A friend helped him write a letter to a holistic veterinarian, Dr. Stacey Hershman, who had given him advice over the phone about his other dog, Cinnamon, back in 2009. 

Cinnamon has since died — she was euthanized five years ago with Tarangelo's permission at Fifth Avenue Veterinary Specialists after a vet there told him Cinnamon was in too much pain.

In the letter to Hershman, dated Aug. 6, Tarangelo wrote: "Dr. Hershman, I know Spot is not ready for euthanasia. His appetite is still strong and he still enjoys going to the dog run at night, when it's empty and he just lays around. He still PULLS me and my other dog there. His pees and poops are normal. He does drink more, however. But I'm not worried about that."

He said Hershman called him back a week after Spot had been taken and suggested a procedure called debulking, used for mast cell tumors. A friend of Tarangelo's had already helped to raise $1,000 for treatment for Spot, and Tarangelo hoped to get the dog back as soon as possible so the dog could get the procedure done.

Tarangelo has spent more than $4,800 caring for his dogs, using a special credit card called CareCredit that is meant for medical expenses, he said. He uses the card solely for Spot and his other dog, Pickles. Spot was Pickles' father.

Tarangelo lives off of Supplemental Security Income, a federal program that supports disabled adults. For at least the past three years, he has had an auto-transfer set on his bank account to donate $18 per month to the ASPCA, he said.

As Tarangelo described the ordeal with the ASPCA and NYPD this week, he recalled what he told police officers as he begged to get his dog back.

"This isn't a truck you towed," Tarangelo said. "This is my animal. He's very close to me. I don't have no children."